Article for Category: ‘Issues with psychometric or educational tests’

Similar but different: differences in comprehension diagnosis on the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability and the York Assessment of Reading for Comprehension

May 04th, 2016

Psychometric tests are behavioural tests. We use measures of behaviour (which we can see directly) to infer something about a latent variable (something that can’t be seen or measured directly). Take tests of reading ability as an example. Reading occurs in the brain and is therefore a latent variable. We can’t see or measure it directly. The consequence is that different tests will provide different results depending on a number of factors, including the skills/items that the test samples and the normative population. 

Danielle ColenbranderLyndsey Nickels and Saskia Kohnen have just published a study that investigated differences in the content and scores obtained from two commonly used reading tests: The NARA and the YARC. The whole can be found in the Journal of Research in Reading. 

The Abstract

Identifying reading comprehension difficulties is challenging. There are many comprehension tests to choose from, and a child’s diagnosis can be influenced by various factors such as a test’s format and content and the choice of diagnostic criteria. We investigate these issues with reference to the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability (NARA) and the York Assessment of Reading for Comprehension (YARC).


Ninety-five children were assessed on both tests. Test characteristics were compared using Principal Components and Regression analyses as well as an analysis of passage content.


NARA comprehension scores were more dependent on decoding skills than YARC scores, but children answered more comprehension questions on the NARA and passages spanned a wider range of difficulty. Consequently, 15–34% of children received different diagnoses across tests, depending on diagnostic criteria.


Knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of comprehension tests is essential when attempting to diagnose reading comprehension difficulties.


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